PITTSBURGH (AP) — José Urquidy scattered two hits over six innings, rookie Corey Julks hit the first home run of his big league career and the Houston Astros rolled by the Pittsburgh Pirates 7-0 on Wednesday.
Urquidy (1-0) allowed singles by Carlos Santana and Jack Suwinski as the reigning champions took two of three in their first visit to Pittsburgh since 2013. Urquidy struck out two and walked three.
Julks, Chas McCormick and José Abreu had two hits each for Houston. Alex Bregman homered for the second straight game, a three-run shot in the seventh that gave the Astros plenty of breathing room as Houston bounced back from a walk-off loss to the Pirates on Tuesday by putting a dent in Pittsburgh’s fast start.
Rich Hill (0-2) worked six efficient innings but received little support from his teammates. Signed to a an $8 million, one-year deal in the offseason to provide a young pitching staff with a veteran presence, the 43-year-old Hill struggled during his last start. Unable to get his breaking stuff that can dip below 70 mph, Chicago teed off for seven runs in just four innings of work.
The 43-year-old took a step forward against the Astros, keeping Houston off balance and relying on his defense to get by. One of his few mistakes was an 82 mph cutter to Julks in the fourth inning that Julks, a Houston native, turned on and sent into the left-field bleachers.
Pittsburgh lost for the second time in three games after shortstop Oneil Cruz was lost for at least four months with a fractured left ankle.
Ji Hwan Bae, who ended Tuesday night’s game with a three-run homer to right field in the ninth, walked twice in four at-bats while playing shortstop and taking over Cruz’s spot atop the lineup.
The Astros have been off to a somewhat sleepy start while missing second baseman Jose Altuve, who remains out with a right thumb injury. Bregman began the season 0 for 18 but is showing signs of getting his timing back.
A day after collecting two hits, including his first home run of the season, Bregman backed it up with a long drive off Pittsburgh reliever Dauri Moreta for his second homer in less than 24 hours.
Plate umpire Jerry Layne left following the third inning after absorbing a foul tip that hit one of his hands.
Brock Ballou, who had been working first base, moved behind the plate.
Astros: Return home to take on in-state rival Texas in a three-game set starting Friday. Luis Garcia goes for Houston (0-1, 7.00 ERA) versus Martín Pérez (1-1, 2.53)
Pirates: Head to St. Louis to start a four-game series with the Cardinals on Thursday. Vince Velasquez (0-2, 9.82) starts against Jordan Montgomery (2-0, 2.25).